He tried to keep the rising tide of fear from overflowing into his voice and wondered for a moment at his ability to succeed. There was no response. Not even a flicker of reaction from Jack at the sound of his name.
"Come on, Jack, you're scaring me..."
After a few moments silence, Jack's eyes travelled to him. Those were the same eyes whose every expression Daniel had come to know so well, the same eyes he'd seen smiling sleepily down at him a few hours before they'd set off on this mission. But though there was still intelligence and life there, that was all. There was no recognition, no response.
"Who are you?" Jack asked, frowning.
His mind was whirling with unanswered questions. He thrashed around in search of answers like a drowning man clutching for a rope to save him. Where was he? What was this place and how did he come to be here?
"Jack?" a quiet voice asked, breaking into his incipient panic.
He was not alone wherever this place was, at least. When he opened his eyes he found that there was someone crouched beside him. Someone with an expression of concern on his face, a man. Someone he didn't recognise. Someone who sounded worried. Someone he probably ought to know.
"Come on, Jack, you're scaring me..."
He was afraid, the man who was there with him. He could hear the fear that ran through the words he spoke like a thread - they sounded sharp with concern. He wanted to say something that would reassure this other man, as his tone, more than the words themselves, pulled at him, as if they sought to drag out a response.
It was like learning to walk all over again, like he was learning to re-use muscles he had no recollection of ever using before. It was as though he'd been born here, wherever here was; he couldn't remember ever being in any other place.
Turning his head towards the voice, he asked, "Who are you?"
There was a muted gasp, so swift that he almost thought he'd imagined it, until he saw the way the other man's eyes had widened at his question.
"What do you mean 'who are you?'? Aw crap..."
It had all seemed so normal the day before, just another meet and greet mission to a planet with inhabitants who'd seemed relatively friendly. They'd expressed a polite interest in the members of SG-1, hadn't run away screaming when they saw Teal'c, and had generally acted like all-round good hosts.
Despite all of this, Daniel had been slightly bored. The chief of the tribe didn't seem inclined to talk to him beyond polite comments and the person he'd identified as the local shaman had just fixed him with a baleful stare every time he'd tried to strike up some kind of conversation.
In the end, Daniel had got fed up with being glared at and had just gone with the flow.
After they'd eaten, and the locals had begun to drift away back to the village, Daniel had walked out of the cavern where they'd been eating, crossing the open ground to where the team had set up camp. They'd elected to sleep outside while they'd been on this planet, the weather being mild, and Daniel had laid down on his bedroll and let the warm sun relax him. There was nothing like sunshine and a full stomach.
It was just a shame that his mind wasn't as relaxed as his body. Even as he closed his eyes, Daniel couldn't help feeling a little like a spare part on this mission. What was the point of him being around if the people here wouldn't even talk to him?
So, instead of having his mind full of mission-related information, Daniel found his mind drifting to the subject of Jack. Months had passed since they'd entered into a closer relationship than he'd ever expected, yet still there were days when Daniel wondered if he really knew Jack O'Neill at all. Days when there seemed to be a wall between the two of them, one he couldn't scale no matter how hard he tried.
He'd learned early on that it didn't matter what he said, when Jack was in one of those kind of moods. Whatever Daniel said or didn't say, ultimately made no difference whatsoever in how long Jack drew inside himself for. All Daniel could do was weather the storm and be there for Jack on the other side, frustrating as that was.
And he could never tell when one of those days was on its way, or highlight whatever it was that had triggered its appearance. Daniel had just grown to recognise the signs, and he'd seen that dark expression in Jack's eyes today, recognising it in a moment.
At first, when the intimacy between them was new, he'd wondered a little guiltily whether Jack was reacting to that. But that didn't seem to be the case - he'd accepted Daniel just being close, that physical nearness alone had seemed to help a little when words alone made Jack just pull further inside his shell.
There was pain there, pain Jack was living with every day, but there was nothing Daniel could do to take it away, even if Jack would let him.
Even as he drifted off, his mind finally grinding to a halt, Daniel had known he probably shouldn't fall asleep, he'd known it wasn't wise, but he couldn't help himself.
When Daniel had woken up, he'd known something was wrong somehow immediately, with some kind of sixth sense he couldn't have explained. When he sat up, he could see Sam and Teal'c nearby, both also asleep, but there was no sign of Jack. He'd stood, crossing over to where Sam lay, then squatted down beside her as he shook her awake.
With one swift motion, Daniel found himself pinned to the floor with Sam's arm across his throat, her instincts kicking in before she was completely awake.
"Sorry, Daniel," she said, pulling back when she realised who it was. "You startled me."
"Teal'c?" Daniel called out, hearing his voice rasp a little from the dust they'd stirred up, as he got up and brushed himself off. Sam tried to help him but he glared at her and she backed away, her hands raised.
"I am awake," Teal'c said, rolling to his side to face them. He looked around. "Where is O'Neill?"
"Good question," Daniel replied. "Didn't he come back with you?" The others shook their heads. "We should split up and search," he continued. "I'll go back to the cavern."
Sam nodded, her military training kicking in.
"Teal'c, you go towards the river, I'll go the other way and we'll keep in radio contact every 10 minutes." She looked at Daniel and Teal'c, who both nodded their agreement. "And we'll rendezvous back here in one hour if we don't find anything."
Daniel headed in the direction of the cavern - he paused only to pick up a flashlight from the supplies they'd brought with them. When they'd been eating with the people of the planet, people who were nowhere to be seen now, the caverns had been lit by guttering oil lamps. Not the best source of light when you were searching for someone, and not the most reliable either.
Despite his love of ancient things, when it came to something as important as finding Jack, Daniel preferred to trust something a little more modern.
He was inside the entrance in a matter of minutes, and his planning proved a good idea. Most of the lamps had gone out, only the occasional one still burned, casting a wavering yellow light here and there.
"Jack!" His voice came back to him, the echoes seeming to mock him from the silence. "JACK!"
Somewhere, deep inside the cavern, Daniel thought he could hear the steady drip of water. But that was the only sound that answered him.
Undeterred, Daniel pressed deeper into the cavern, his flashlight illuminating crudely-carved wooden stools he stepped over as he headed towards the sound of water. It had been covered by the voices of people when he had been here before, the quiet attitude of the chief and shaman not repeated by the others who had feasted with them.
"All will be well."
The voice came from behind him, and Daniel whirled to face its source, lowering his flashlight as the figure he lit cast a hand across its eyes in reaction.
"Where is he?" Daniel asked, lowering the flashlight and squinting into the semi-darkness. He could recognise the other figure now, even if the voice had been unfamiliar - it was the tribal shaman, the one who'd just glared at him before.
"Follow me," the shaman said, beckoning for Daniel to follow. What choice did he have?
"Where is Colonel O'Neill?" Daniel asked, hearing the worry and frustration in his voice.
"All will be well," the shaman repeated, without looking back.
He led the way deeper into the cavern, then through a large crack in the wall and down a winding passageway. After they'd walked a little way further, the passageway opened out into a room, and alongside one of the walls was a pallet. A pallet currently occupied by Jack O'Neill.
Daniel felt the tension that had been building inside rush out all at once.
"He was in much pain," the shaman said, allowing Daniel to pass by him and get to where Jack was.
"What?" Daniel asked, without taking his eyes off Jack. He reached a tentative hand out and touched Jack's neck, his fingers feeling for a pulse. When he found it, the pulse was steady and slow, as if Jack was merely sleeping. "Jack?"
There was no response. Daniel slid his hand down to Jack's shoulder and shook him, a movement that reminded him of waking Sam not very long before. But still Jack slept on.
"What have you done to him?" Daniel asked, turning back to the shaman now. He paused for a moment, remembering something the shaman had said. "You said something about Jack being in pain?"
The shaman nodded, not meeting Daniel's eyes.
"That one," he said, still looking at Jack. "He carried much pain. But no more."
"What have you done?" Daniel repeated. The shaman said nothing. Some small noise from Jack made Daniel turn to glance at him, and when he looked back, the shaman was gone. Sighing, Daniel turned his attention back to Jack.
Jack was still asleep, an empty bowl standing by the side of the pallet where he lay. Had he been given something? Daniel picked up the bowl and sniffed at it tentatively, recoiling from the pungent aroma that the bowl still held. What the hell was that? And how had the shaman managed to persuade the ever-cautious Jack O'Neill to drink any of it?
There was a slight residue in the bottom of the bowl, a sludgy liquid that tasted as bad as it smelled, Daniel discovered. He wiped his fingers absently on his fatigues as he turned back to look at Jack once more. There was something familiar about the taste, but he couldn't quite place it. That wasn't the most important thing anyway. Waking Jack was.
"Jack!" Daniel said, insistently, as he shook Jack's shoulder again. This time there'd been a slight response, Jack's eyelids flickered as if he'd heard something, as if he was trying to wake up. "Jack!"
"Daniel, are you okay?" Carter's voice came over the radio, and it echoed strangely through the small room in which the two men were sitting. "Have you seen any sign of the colonel?"
"I'm fine, Sam," Daniel replied. "And Jack... well, I found him... he... he's here. We're in the cavern. There's a side chamber, you can get to it through a crack along the left-hand wall as you enter."
"Good. Stay put, Teal'c and I are coming to find you." With that the radio crackled once, then fell silent.
"Who was that?" Jack asked. His eyes seemed very wide and guileless in the light shed by Daniel's flashlight.
"What? That was Sam - they're coming to get us," Daniel replied, almost forgetting for a moment that Jack didn't know who Sam was. Then another thought struck him, this one with the force of a blow. "Jack... this isn't one of your stupid jokes, is it? Because, if it is..." The words trailed off, as if of their own accord.
Jack watched him as his words stumbled to a halt, his expression, if nothing else, showing that this was no joke.
"Is that my name?" Jack asked, after there was a moment's silence between them.
Daniel turned back to look at Jack, taking in the expression on Jack's face with a glance. There was something open about it, something vulnerable, and it wasn't something he was used to at all. Even in the time they'd been together, he'd always felt as if he'd barely scratched the surface of knowing who Jack was.
"You said 'Jack', is that me?"
For a moment, Daniel hardly knew where to begin. He was torn between an absurd urge to laugh at the situation and the overwhelming concern that he felt for Jack. How unsettling must it be for him, to wake somewhere and not know who you are?
"Yes," he said, finally, "that's you. Colonel Jack O'Neill, US Air Force."
Jack seemed to process this information for a moment, his eyes travelling over the fatigues that Daniel wore as he did so, before he spoke again.
"I'm a colonel?" he asked. Daniel nodded. "Then shouldn't you call me 'sir'?"
Daniel felt the question floor him for a moment, making his mind spin slightly, before he conceded the inherent logic of it.
"Maybe I should, if I was in the military, Jack, but I'm not, so I don't." Daniel paused, realising that he hadn't expressed himself all that clearly. "I suppose, in the circumstances, I ought to introduce myself? I'm Daniel." He paused, considering for a moment, before he pressed on. "Dr. Daniel Jackson."
"Pleased to meet you, Dr. Jackson," Jack replied, then hesitated. "What?"
Daniel knew he'd reacted to that, even if he'd tried not to. He just wasn't used to Jack calling him Dr. Jackson any more.
It seemed wrong somehow; it reminded him more than anything else of stepping through into that other reality, that other SGC where the Jack there hadn't known him at all. And that discovery had hurt, had driven a spike of pain straight into Daniel's heart. It had also been one of the things that had made Daniel first realise he felt more for Jack than just friendship.
"Nothing, Jack. It's just..." Daniel paused for a moment, before he was able to put together the words to explain why Jack calling him that was such a blow. "You call me Daniel, not Dr. Jackson. Or at least, you have for quite a while."
"So, we're friends then?"
The others had arrived shortly after that conversation, a tall woman and a large dark man with a strange symbol on his forehead. When he'd seen that, he'd touched his own forehead surreptitiously, in the guise of rubbing away an itch, just curious whether he too bore such a mark. But there had been nothing there, like there was nothing on Daniel's forehead either.
He'd let himself be led by them, out of the only place he could remember being, through a cavern, and out into the late afternoon sunshine. He'd had to screw his eyes against the light, and then Daniel had turned to him and reached into one of the pockets on his jacket and pulled out a pair of sunglasses. Daniel had handed them to him with a smile, and he'd put them on, suddenly grateful for the chance to hide from both the sunshine and the looks.
They didn't mean to make him feel uncomfortable, he was sure of that. But they glanced at him when they didn't think he noticed, as if they were unsure of him. As if he was dangerous.
He'd waited while they packed up, standing uncertainly at the edge of the small campsite, unable to assist because he couldn't remember how to make anything go into anything else. He'd stepped forward to help at first, but the woman had smiled at him and asked him not to, saying that they would get everything done in just a moment anyway.
Once everything was packed, they'd headed off, following her lead, and he'd found himself walking beside Daniel, listening to Daniel's voice. It washed over him, familiar and unfamiliar all at the same time. Daniel was reminding him who these people were; it seemed the woman was his second in command, the man an alien who worked with them.
He'd glanced across at Daniel when he'd said that, but Daniel wasn't smiling, so it wasn't a joke. He couldn't remember whether Daniel was any good at bluffing, but he wondered how the man who was with them could possibly be from another planet - he looked so, well, normal. If it hadn't been for that mark on his forehead, he wouldn't have looked at all out of place anywhere.
And where were they, anyway?
Jack looked around, but nothing looked familiar. Then again, it didn't look unfamiliar either. At least, nothing looked out of place until they entered the clearing and he saw what was standing there.
He only realised he'd stopped when Daniel turned back to him.
"Don't worry," he'd said, beckoning him to follow. "I know you don't remember, Jack, but you've seen one of these before. Lots of times."
He'd crossed over to another device then, standing some distance away from the ring-shaped one, and begun to push down buttons. As he did so, there was a grating noise from the ring-shaped thing, and lights began to appear on it.
He turned, just in time to see Daniel place his hand on the centre of the device, which glowed orange under his palm. Out of the corner of his eye, Jack saw something happen at the other object, and turned his head just in time to see a wave-like emission erupt from it. Then it settled, shimmering blue and waterlike inside the ring, as if it were a pool of water.
"What the hell is that?"
"It's called a Stargate," Daniel said, snagging his sleeve and urging him to follow.
They headed towards the Stargate, Jack still reluctant. He'd never seen anything quite like it, or at least he didn't remember seeing it, and he wasn't sure he wanted to be this close to whatever-it-was anyway.
There were a small set of stone steps heading up to the watery surface, and the woman... Carter, that was her name, was now at the top of them, the blueness reflecting off her skin as she turned back to them.
"See you back at base," she said, before stepping forward and allowing the 'water' to envelop her.
"What the...?" Jack heard himself ask, before he could stop the words.
"It's okay, Jack," Daniel said. "Trust me."
Climbing the steps, Jack found himself face to face with the 'water' and reached out a tentative hand. He jerked it back when he felt it wrap itself round his fingers, tugging at him.
"It feels odd, doesn't it?" Daniel said, and it was then that Jack realised that Daniel was keeping up a running commentary. As if he realised the extent of his worry about this new experience and was trying to talk him through it. "It's simple. Really. All you need to do is step through."
He'd never felt this feeling before, this coldness inside. It was as if he was fixed to the spot, not wanting to back down but also not wanting to go forward. Even though he'd seen Carter do it, he just wasn't sure.
Daniel smiled at him, took a firmer grip of Jack's sleeve and stepped forward into the 'water', pulling Jack along with him before he could object.
The next thing Jack knew, he was on his hands and knees on a metal ramp, gasping for breath.
How could I have ever thought this was one of Jack's stupid jokes? Daniel drank yet another mouthful of the messhall's appalling coffee, while waiting to hear what Dr. Fraiser had to say. What must it be like to wake up and discover that you can't remember anything about yourself, not even your own name?
Hearing Jack call him 'Dr. Jackson' like they'd never met before, like he had when the two of them had first met, had been a blow Daniel hadn't expected. Although the words weren't said in the same tone as they had been by the Jack O'Neill he'd met so many months ago, the fact that they'd been spoken by him at all had shaken Daniel more than he liked to admit.
Why was that? Why was the possibility that Jack had forgotten who Daniel was, and what they were to one another, more upsetting than the idea that Jack couldn't remember his own name?
"So, we're friends then?" Jack had asked and Daniel hadn't known how to reply.
He couldn't possibly tell Jack the truth, could he? Daniel had no idea how Jack might react, whether he even understood the need for the secrecy that surrounded their relationship. If he didn't know who Daniel was, what else didn't he know or remember? The risk was too great.
"We are," Daniel had said, answering Jack's question finally, while all the time wishing he could say more.
Daniel looked up, startled from his reflections by the quiet question. He'd almost expected it would be Sam and Teal'c who stood there, but it still took him a moment to order his thoughts enough to respond.
"Nothing yet," he said, indicating with his hand that they should join him. "Janet kicked me out, but she promised she'd tell me as soon as there was anything to tell." Both Sam and Teal'c had sat down by now, and Daniel looked from one to the other.
"O'Neill does not remember anything?"
"He doesn't remember any of us, Teal'c," Daniel replied. "He can remember other stuff, but nothing related to the SGC, or his family, or anything specific in his past."
Sam's eyes were on him now, intent and sharp.
"Nothing?" she asked.
"It seems that way."
"And does Janet think that's permanent?" Daniel shrugged, hardly knowing what to say. "What the hell was the colonel thinking drinking that stuff?"
Daniel looked down into the depths of his coffee. He'd wondered that himself, because Jack was the last person he'd have expected to do something like this. He, after all, was the one with the reputation of acting first and thinking afterwards, not Jack, but even he wouldn't have willingly drunk an unknown substance on another planet.
"I wish I knew," he replied. "Maybe then I could make some sense of this."
"Things will be exercised," Teal'c said, his voice rumbling through the silence that fell briefly between them.
Despite himself, Daniel couldn't help smiling.
"Things will work out," he corrected automatically, before he could stop himself. "I hope you're right, Teal'c."
"Well?" Hammond asked as he entered the infirmary. Dr. Fraiser turned from her examination of the EEG results, making a couple of notes on the chart she held before she spoke.
"I can't see anything wrong with the colonel, sir." She glanced down at her notes again before she continued, as if she hoped to see some change in what was written there. "Nothing physical has changed, but Colonel O'Neill simply seems to just not remember anything before Dr. Jackson found him in the cavern."
She glanced across at the closed curtains surrounding the bed where Jack was currently resting, her face showing the concern she didn't voice out loud.
"How is that possible?"
"I have no idea," Fraiser said, looking at Hammond now. "Possibly the substance that Colonel O'Neill was given by the locals had some effect on him that we're not aware of. I won't know any more until the analysis of it is complete. It could be just a temporary condition, sir, but at the moment I have no way of telling."
"You'll continue to monitor him here?" Hammond had followed her gaze, as if he could feel Jack's presence, her concern transferring itself to him.
"There's no need for him to be in the infirmary," Janet said. "In fact, if this is a temporary thing, it would be beneficial for Colonel O'Neill to be in familiar surroundings. Though, of course, he shouldn't be left alone, just in case there are unexpected side- effects."
"I'll ask Dr. Jackson if he wouldn't mind taking the colonel home," Hammond said, nodding to Dr. Fraiser before he left.
He'd felt so helpless, so unable to do anything for Jack when he'd discovered him on the planet, that Daniel had immediately agreed to the general's request. After all, it wasn't as if him spending time at Jack's house was any kind of novelty, for either of them. But Hammond and Dr. Fraiser didn't know half of what had gone on there in the past between him and Jack, and that was just the way that Daniel planned to keep it.
Of course, Daniel hadn't counted on just how fractious Jack would be.
Getting him into the car at the SGC had been the easy part. Jack had seemed a little cowed by the strictness with which Janet had put him into the passenger seat, after she'd accompanied them to the surface. Keeping Jack in the car after they'd left the base was another matter altogether.
At least while they were going along, Jack had enough sense to stay in his seat, though his fidgeting was starting to drive Daniel crazy. When they reached the first set of lights coming into town, and the car drew to a halt at the intersection, Daniel had to react quickly to prevent Jack simply getting out of the car.
Jack glared at him when Daniel grabbed his arm as he tried to undo his seatbelt, pulling Jack back into his seat.
"We're not home yet, Jack," Daniel said, wondering why he had agreed to this. "Just put your seatbelt back on, okay?" Jack looked at him, his expression saying clearly that he didn't like this idea. Daniel felt as though he was explaining something to a four year old. "Please?"
It took a moment, a long moment that was punctuated by the sound of horns from the cars stuck behind them, before Jack gave in to Daniel's plea.
Daniel concentrated on driving, then, though half his attention was fixed on Jack, who was now sitting as still as a rock. He was staring out of the car window in silence as they drove through town and out into the suburbs towards Jack's house.
"Jack?" Daniel asked, without getting a response. "We're nearly back at your place."
Jack still said nothing.
Daniel sighed, wishing the journey was already over. He was pretty sure Jack was sulking, though that was something Daniel had never seen him do before. But it seemed as though the exposure to whatever the tribal shaman had given him had made Jack regress a little, making him respond to his impulses without considering them at all.
All the more reason to keep their relationship a secret from Jack, for now at least, Daniel decided. He didn't fancy trying to explain anything about that to Jack at the moment, not when they were faced with the possibility that Jack might just blurt something damaging out to whoever he spoke to. Something that could potentially wreck both their careers and the repercussions of which would be hard for Jack to deal with should he ever recover his memory.
When they finally drew up outside Jack's house, Daniel turned off the engine and looked at Jack.
"Anything look familiar?" he asked, remembering Janet's admonition not to push Jack too hard. She'd said his memory, if it was going to come back on its own, would return at its own rate. Pushing him to remember could just make Jack feel like he was failing somehow. Jack looked round at Daniel and shrugged.
"Can I get out now?" he asked, a small note of petulance in his voice. His hand was already hovering over the release of the seatbelt. Daniel nodded and Jack was halfway out of the car before he realised it.
"Jack!" he called, getting out of the car himself.
Jack froze where he was on the sidewalk, turning back to Daniel with a slightly guilty expression on his face. He'd been headed down the street towards where a large black dog had its head over the fence, its tongue lolling out as if it was grinning at him.
"You can go see Mrs. Richards' dog later, okay?"
Jack shrugged again - he was trying to act as if it wasn't important, but Daniel could tell he was disappointed.
"Okay," he said, waiting for Daniel to catch up with him. Then Jack trailed along beside Daniel into the house, his head turning every so often as they climbed the steps so that he could look back towards where the dog still stood.
This was decidedly odd. Jack was wandering round the house, looking more than a little lost, and Daniel was suddenly glad they hadn't gone back to his apartment. There were so many more breakable and infinitely more irreplaceable items there. This was bad enough.
Jack was over by the fireplace now, just standing there and looking at the various photos.
"Anything look familiar?" Daniel asked.
Jack shook his head.
"But that's me," Jack said, as he pointed to someone in one of the pictures. "I saw that face in the mirror this morning. I don't know who the other people are."
Daniel crossed to stand next to Jack and looked at the photo in question. It was one that had been taken shortly after the first Abydos mission, Daniel decided, recognising the faces he saw there.
"That's Kawalsky, there on your right," Daniel said. "And the other guy is Ferretti." He hesitated, unsure of how much he should tell Jack and how much he ought to make Jack try and remember of his own accord. "You'd just got back from an important mission."
Daniel nodded without taking his eyes from the photo, but he could feel Jack's gaze on him still. He thought of all the things that had changed since that photo had been taken. After all, he'd been back on Abydos then with Sha're, and Kawalsky had still been alive. He'd had no idea how much his life would change just a few short months from then, or how much the man who was in the photo would come to mean to him.
"What happened?" Jack asked. "Where did we go?"
Daniel hesitated. He'd mentally put the Stargate and all related subjects into the same category as their relationship, firmly labelled as 'things not to be discussed unless absolutely necessary'. But Jack looked so intrigued that he wondered whether it would really hurt. He couldn't be expected to try and remember years worth of memories without a little help, could he?
"You know, don't you?" Jack pressed, turning to him now.
Jack had that same expression on his face that Daniel had seen a thousand times, the same look of frustration that always made Daniel just want to grab him and kiss it away. But there was no way he could. That would just be wrong, taking advantage of Jack, even if Jack would allow him to.
"I should know, Jack," Daniel replied, looking at the photo once more. "After all, I was there on that mission too."
After he'd told Jack all about the first mission to Abydos, complete with three repetitions of the time when he'd been dragged across the sand dunes by an over-friendly mastadge, Daniel had managed to get Jack to take a nap. He'd been reluctant at first, but, when Jack had seen the kingsize bed that dominated his bedroom, he'd quickly changed his mind, and Daniel had left him happily undressing.
This whole situation sucked.
Daniel had spent many a night in that very bed, being kissed and licked and bitten and sucked by Jack to various heights of ecstasy, and now he couldn't even bear to be in the same room with it. He hoped that Jack didn't realise something was wrong, that he'd covered for himself quickly enough, but he wasn't sure if he had.
Daniel thought he'd seen Jack glance worriedly at him before he closed the bedroom door but there was no way he was going to go back and check.
That was too dangerous all round.
This wasn't Jack, not in any way that mattered. He might have Jack's body, but his life experiences, his memories, most importantly the memories of all the things the two of them had done together, were missing. It would be like having sex with a stranger, even if it wasn't like some kind of exploitation.
This Jack was an innocent, he was like a child in the body of a grown man. Someone who had impulses and then acted on them. And Daniel had no intention of taking advantage of that willingness to experience and to please.
This was okay. Being out of the infirmary was an all round good thing. The only thing wrong was that there was something up with Daniel. Something that made Daniel unhappy - Jack decided he didn't like that idea, not at all.
Daniel had been kind to him, even if he had stopped him from doing some of the things he'd wanted to, like going to make friends with that dog that lived down the street.
Still, he'd told Jack all about the mission they'd been on together, the one when they'd gone to Abydos, and that had been exciting. Jack just wished that he could remember any of it for himself - there had been a look on Daniel's face when he'd told parts of that story that made Jack wish he remembered.
Was there something he could do for Daniel? Something to make him feel better?
Jack rolled over on the bed as he considered this, wondering why being here didn't feel as strange as it probably ought to. Daniel had said that this was his room, his house, but it all felt like kind of like he'd never seen it before. Like he'd picked up one of the magazines he'd seen in the infirmary when he'd been waiting for the tests to happen and had walked into one of the pictures.
Jack stroked his hand across the soft cotton of the sheet. That felt nice. Maybe he was tired after all - maybe Daniel was right. He could just have a nap and then try to figure out what he could do to make Daniel happy again. He could just close his eyes for a little while....
Daniel was startled from his sleep and it took him a moment to realise what had woken him. His neck was stiff from having fallen asleep on the sofa, and he turned his head slightly as he tried to push Jack away.
"Jack? What're you doing?"
"Hmmm?" Jack looked more lively than before, his dark eyes sparkling with mischief, and it was all that Daniel could do to push him away.
"Could you stop that?" Daniel asked, squirming.
Daniel had realised early on in his dealings with Jack that he'd basically lost a number of the social niceties along with his memory, so that he was reduced to reacting to his desires and wants without a second thought. And it seemed that his current area of interest was in licking Daniel's ear, so much so that he'd woken Daniel where he'd been dozing on Jack's sofa.
Daniel managed to push Jack away finally, feeling a pang of guilt at the expression of dismay that crossed Jack's face as he did so. In some ways dealing with Jack was like dealing with a four year old. An oversexed four year old who was highly-trained in unarmed combat. With a pout to match. He supposed he should be grateful that Jack had just stuck to licking his ear.
"I thought you liked that," Jack muttered as he retreated to the other end of the couch. He pulled his legs up and wrapped his arms round his knees. "You always used to like that."
It took a moment before the words sank in, as Daniel was still reeling slightly from Jack's assault on one of his most sensitive areas.
"What?" Daniel snapped. Jack looked up, startled by Daniel's outburst. "You remembered something?"
"I guess." Jack looked down again, contemplating his knees. He didn't look too interested in the idea he might be getting his memory back.
"This is great!"
"For you, maybe," Jack muttered, not looking at him. "But I'm still not getting any..."
"Do you remember anything else?" Daniel asked, ignoring Jack's half- muttered innuendo.
He'd been unwilling to push Jack to remember, agreeing with Dr. Fraiser that Jack would probably make more progress if he was allowed to recall things at his own speed. He'd only told Jack about the first Abydos mission because of the look he'd seen on Jack's face, wondering as he did so whether he was making a mistake. Now, it seemed that had been the right idea. Not that this stopped Daniel feeling impatient.
Daniel was fed up already with sharing Jack's house with this stranger. He wanted Jack back.
He'd been so sure he was doing something right. Something that Daniel would like, something that... something that he remembered Daniel liked?
Daniel seemed pleased with that much, at least, even if he'd pushed him away. That Jack was remembering something, even if it didn't seem that important to him. All he knew was that he had the oddest of feelings, ones that he didn't really expect to be having. And that they all seemed to relate to Daniel.
The other people at the SGC had been nice enough; they'd been friendly towards him and tolerant of the fact that he didn't know who any of them were. But he didn't feel the same way towards them as he did about Daniel.
There was something about seeing Daniel looking sad that upset him as well, that gave Jack the oddest feeling in his stomach. As if somehow it was his job to make sure Daniel wasn't unhappy, and he was failing at it.
Because Daniel was unhappy, even though he tried to cover it. Jack wondered if it was because he knew Daniel well that he knew he was unhappy. After all, hadn't Daniel said that they were friends? Daniel had clearly had a lot of practice in the past at pretending everything was okay, but it wasn't enough to fool Jack.
He had to try and remember.
At first it hadn't seemed all that strange to him, Jack realised, the fact that he was surrounded by people who he didn't know. But he could see that his lack of memory was painful for them, and that was a bad thing. He had to push himself, had to make himself try and remember. What was going on with Daniel anyway? Why were things so different with him than the others?
Jack knew from what Daniel had told him that they'd been friends for a couple of years now - it sounded like he'd known Daniel longer than anyone else at the SGC. But that wasn't it, Jack was sure of that, even if he couldn't remember why he was. It wasn't just time that had made him understand Daniel, somehow Jack knew that without being told. There was something more, something he couldn't quite put his finger on at the moment.
He had to try and remember.
How much was Jack actually remembering? How much of what Jack was doing was his own creation, driven by the uncertain emotions he was experiencing, and how much was memory?
Daniel sighed, resting his forehead against the cool glass of the window, and wondered if he would ever know the difference.
"Daniel?" Jack's voice, sounding hesitant, came from behind him, and he turned after a moment. "Are you mad at me?"
"No," Daniel said, surprising himself with the truth of that. But how could he be mad at Jack, when it wasn't Jack's fault that he didn't remember? Well, except that he'd drunk the damn stuff that made him lose his memory in the first place.
"Then why did you push me away?"
Jack looked genuinely puzzled, and Daniel wondered where to begin. How could he explain a relationship that was months old in a way that Jack would grasp, bearing in mind that Jack had no idea of all the experiences they'd shared together before that?
"It's hard to explain," Daniel began, searching for the words. "You and I, we... we're friends?" Jack nodded. "Well, we're more than friends, but it's a secret. It has to be."
"I think I'm remembering things," Jack said, looking confused. "But I have no idea whether they're real or not. How long have we known each other?"
"A couple of years now, Jack," Daniel said. "We first met..."
"On the mission to Abydos."
"You told me."
Daniel found himself laughing a little at this, finding his own failure to remember their previous conversation ironic. Jack was watching him still, and he relaxed visibly when he saw Daniel laugh.
"And the other? The 'more than friends' thing?" Jack asked. Daniel's laughter ground to a halt. "How long?"
"A couple of months."
Daniel looked down, not wanting to see the expression he expected to in Jack's eyes. Somehow he knew Jack wouldn't believe him at first, wouldn't trust that things had been that way between them for a while - he remembered how much Jack had struggled against the idea the first time round.
"And were we... are we happy?"
"I think so."
Daniel turned and looked out of the window again, seeing Jack's half- reflection there as he looked past him. It had been good, and he missed it. He missed Jack.
"And it's a secret," Jack said.
Daniel didn't look round this time, staring out into the back yard.
"No-one knows," he said. "If they knew, they wouldn't let us work together any more, Jack. You could get sent to prison, I could get fired. It's too dangerous."
He could feel Jack standing behind him now, his quiet presence disconcerting, and thought only of how things should be between them. He shouldn't be having to explain all of this, this was all stuff they'd discussed early on, risks they'd chosen to take. It was past. But here Daniel was again, once more telling Jack why they had to keep such an important thing a secret.
"What happens next?" Jack asked, and Daniel could hear the sadness in his voice. He'd heard that same tone so many times, half-asleep after a bad mission as Jack went over and over the events of the day to himself until they made some kind of sense, or telling him that everything would be okay when he was the one who was hurting.
"You remember, Jack," Daniel replied. "And we see where we go from here. Or you don't."
"And if I don't ever remember?" Jack was close to him now, so close that Daniel could feel the heat of his body crossing the small distance between them. "What if I never remember what we had?"
Daniel rested his forehead on the cool glass once more, wishing he could move straight through it, move away from the truth he didn't want to say out loud.
"I don't know, Jack. I don't know."
Maybe this was a mistake, Jack thought, seeing the sadness that was etched in every line of Daniel's body.
He'd gone along with the plan that Dr. Fraiser had suggested, agreeing that familiar surroundings might help him recall the things that seemed so far away right now. But he hadn't realised what this would mean to Daniel. How could he have realised, when he didn't know the whole story?
But he could feel the presence of his memories, glimpsing them out of the corner of his eye, only for them to disappear no matter how swiftly he turned. They were there, somewhere, within him, Jack knew that. And he wanted them back, for himself and for Daniel. He needed to know who he was, one way or another.
He wanted to touch Daniel, more than anything, to give him the kind of comfort he hoped he'd given Daniel in the past, if only he could remember it. Theirs had been that kind of relationship, hadn't it? If not, it could be. He could make it be like that.
Things seemed a little more familiar, but it was hard for him to know whether that was true progress or not. It seemed to Jack as though the more he tried, the more he reached out for his memories, the more they eluded him. They slipped through his fingers like mist.
In the end he couldn't bear it any longer, he had to turn away, leaving Daniel by the window. The urge to touch him was too great, but he had no idea what Daniel's response would be - after all, he'd pushed him away before. Without his memories, for Daniel at least, it seemed he wasn't Jack O'Neill at all.
Daniel felt Jack move away from him, felt his warmth leave, but he couldn't bring himself to turn around.
Of all the scenarios he'd considered, those nightmare images that haunted him sometimes, this slow diminution of their relationship had never occurred to him. Not that things had always been plain sailing between them - there had been more than one occasion when Daniel had been so close to just slamming the door behind him and hardly knew what had stopped him from doing just that.
Of course, he'd considered the possibility that one or both of them could be killed next time they stepped through the 'Gate. It had never come up in conversation, but Daniel knew Jack thought about it as well, that it was their shared taboo. The thing they never mentioned in case discussing it somehow made it come to pass. It was a risk they both accepted, reluctantly.
Or they could fight some time, really fight, rending their relationship limb from limb with more venom than even the Goa'uld could manage. That was equally possible, equally worrying.
But not this. He'd never expected this. Daniel had always thought that their relationship was destined to end with a bang of some kind, not a whimper.
When he could turn around, long minutes had passed, and Daniel found himself alone.
Guilt swept over him, making him wonder just how self-centred he was, leaving Jack to deal with this on his own, building another wall between them when Jack's lack of mmemory was wall enough.
Where the hell was Jack anyway?
When the phone rang, Jack made no move to answer it. How could he, when he barely recognised the voices of people he'd met recently at the SGC, let alone anyone else who might be calling. He had no idea who might be on the other end, so it was best to let Daniel pick up.
The pictures on the mantelpiece, the medals in their case that hung above, had drawn him back once more. Jack looked at the faces one at a time, wondering who the hell these people were, why they were important enough to him to be there, even as he heard Daniel begin to speak, the occasional word coming through clearly from the other room.
Jack picked up another photograph, another one of people in military uniform. This was the not-so-recent past; he was in it, and he looked just like he had that morning. Time had moved on from the last picture he'd contemplated. The one that Daniel had commented on, the one in which he had brown hair, had to be a couple of years ago, but this was more recent.
If Daniel hadn't told him, hadn't chosen to tell him about the truth of their relationship, could he have guessed from this picture?
It was a candid shot, taken at some kind of impromptu celebration, with all the people captured in it dressed in fatigues. And in the centre of it all was Daniel, caught mid-gesture, his face animated by his determination to share some piece of knowledge. Jack had seen that expression before; it seemed right, natural.
And he was there too, half-turned from the camera, as if he'd suspected somehow that it was there. His face was intent too, and he was watching Daniel.
When the memory came it slammed through Jack's brain with the force of a blow, and he wondered for a moment whether he had actually stumbled a little in reaction. Certainly the world seemed to tilt for a moment, a feeling of darkness and fear and impending doom razoring through him as the memory returned. He'd thought he was going to die, torn apart by some malevolent creatures he couldn't quite recall, and rescue had been unexpected.
He knew then what Daniel was explaining, as if he could step back into the picture and live that moment all over again. Daniel was explaining his rescue, the incoherence of his reaction to it, and Jack was there, soaking up that surprise and joy like the sun.
It was like the pieces of a puzzle dropping into place. Slowly, tantalisingly slowly, they were forming a picture, and it was a familiar one.
Daniel had put the phone down on Sam after a short conversation - he was glad she'd called, it had given him something to think about other than what was going on around him, but he hadn't been able to tell her a great deal. No, Jack hadn't remembered anything much, and no, he didn't think that her or Teal'c coming over would help any.
Was he wallowing in this? Allowing himself to drown in his guilt for leaving Jack alone, which had given him the opportunity to drink whatever that shaman had persuaded him to? Had Jack really been that much in pain from the things he had experienced that this oblivion had been welcome to him?
Daniel couldn't know. How could he?
He'd thought they were happy, that things were good between them. They fit together well, gave each other the support they needed without smothering one another, and that had to be worth something. So what was it Jack was experiencing that made him need to hide from it this way? Why hadn't Daniel somehow seen this coming?
Daniel knew where Jack would be. The photographs drew him like a magnet, pulling him back to them time and again. But this time, Jack turned to him as he entered the room, holding a picture out in his hand and passing it to Daniel with a smile.
"I..." He paused, frowning a little in confusion. "Am I imagining this, or did I end up on a submarine some time? I thought I was in the Air Force..."
Daniel glanced down at the photograph Jack had given him, one he'd not been conscious of being taken at the time. He remembered it well, and he also remembered the way that Jack had teased him about it when Janet had given them the print. He'd just been glad to see that Jack was okay, having been convinced that he would have to be the one that pushed the button on him. The camera had caught him explaining the events to Sam, though she wasn't in shot, with Jack watching him as he did so.
He looked up from his contemplation of the photograph, to Jack.
"You remember," he said, certain he was right. Jack nodded. "How much?"
"Not that much," Jack admitted, frowning again. "It's there, Daniel, I can feel it. All my past. But I can't quite get to it."
"It's a start, anyway," Daniel said, stepping forward and replacing the photo on the mantelpiece.
Daniel's quiet words hid his pleasure, but not quite well enough that Jack failed to hear it. He knew that voice, almost as well as he knew his own, and even if he couldn't remember why, he knew each tone and what it meant. This memory thing was like chipping away at a wall that separated them and seeing the first chinks appear, the first light coming through the cracks they had created.
Daniel was obviously relieved, but no more than he was. After all, what future was there for him if he didn't remember? He couldn't stay on in his job, even if at the moment he didn't exactly understand what he did, with no memory of anyone or anything he'd done in the past.
More importantly, maybe, it seemed that his amnesia had thrown all his relationships up in the air once more. It wasn't lost to Jack that they'd had very few phone calls since they'd been back at the house - it was obvious that his relationships with the people at the SGC mattered to him, and one more than the rest.
But what else was hidden from him? What things he didn't want to remember?
As much as he wanted to remember everything, partly because of the expectation that he would he saw in Daniel, Jack was also a little afraid. When he'd found himself in the infirmary, Dr. Fraiser had explained to him that he'd drunk something he shouldn't, but Jack couldn't think why he'd do such a thing.
Had he known what it would do? That drinking it would make him forget everything? What had he wanted to forget so badly that he was willing to forget what he'd had with Daniel as well?
Jack turned this question over in his mind, wondering what he hadn't remembered yet that had made him choose oblivion. It was clear to him, even in the short time he had known Daniel this time around, that Daniel cared for him. The feelings he had for Daniel, the emotions he'd experienced when he knew that Daniel was unhappy seemed to argue that care was mutual.
So it couldn't be that which he'd wanted so desperately to forget. There had to be more, something else, something that had torn so deep the scar was still unhealed.
This time Daniel had slept in the spare bedroom, with the door locked.
Though Jack was remembering, and growing more like himself as he did so, he still didn't feel quite like the man Daniel remembered, the man with whom Daniel had a relationship. As he grew more himself, Jack seemed to have more self-control, his impulses not so very near to the surface, but Daniel still felt uncertain around him.
And, in some ways, locking the door was as much for Jack's sake as his own.
The more Jack became himself, the more difficult it became for Daniel to bear in mind that Jack didn't remember what they'd had. That Jack wasn't the man whose bed he'd shared not so very many nights ago. And he didn't want Jack to feel uncomfortable, feel an obligation of any kind, because of what had once existed between them.
Though things were looking more positive now, there was always the possibility that Jack's memory wouldn't come back completely, that he wouldn't remember for himself the things he and Daniel had done.
Their relationship could well be over, Daniel realised, as he rolled over in bed again, searching for a comfortable position. And then they would have a choice - rebuild or separate and move on.
The shaman had said that Jack was in pain, that he had chosen to drink whatever he had been given to take that pain away. That was something Daniel still couldn't understand - was what they had part of that? Did Jack somehow feel trapped by their relationship, or guilty that they knew some kind of happiness?
How could he know the truth? There was a chance he might not ever get the opportunity to ask.
It had been a while since Daniel had felt guilty about anything. When he'd buried Sha're, for a while Daniel had felt as though he'd buried the best part of himself too, wondering what reason there was to get up in the morning. But Jack had been there. Steady, dependable, sarcastic and irritating in turns, Jack had always been there.
That their friendship had smoothly transformed itself into something more had been no surprise to either of them. Daniel had decided life was too short to regret the things you hadn't done, and had propositioned Jack like he'd always wanted to, not really knowing what the response would be. He'd figured that if it all went horribly wrong, he could claim he was still grieving for Sha're and didn't know what he was doing. But it hadn't gone wrong, not at all.
And it hadn't changed either of them, not in any way that Daniel could see. Jack had still been as irritating as ever, prone to cracking wise in bed as much as in the briefing room, and Daniel had known he irritated the hell out of Jack when he wouldn't shut up. No change there.
But there'd been a lurking sadness in Jack, something the shaman had seen, something Daniel knew of too, but couldn't reach. Something indefinable, not something obvious like losing Charlie, though Daniel had seen the fall-out from that first hand. This was something way less tangible, and it left Daniel despairing at times, forced to wait for the mood to blow over, unable to reach past the barrier it put between them no matter how hard he tried.
That, whatever it was, was what had made Jack drink the shaman's potion. That was the reason for all of this.
Jack's sleep was restless, his dreams haunted by images, faces he felt he ought to know, voices he didn't recognise. In the end, he gave up on trying to sleep, heading for the living room where he watched the sun rise. Daniel was still asleep and the house was quiet, giving him lots of opportunity to try and push himself to remember.
Why didn't he recall anything of the relationship Daniel said that they had? He remembered a woman, though her name escaped him. They'd been close, married maybe, though he didn't remember any more than that at the moment. He knew they'd had a child together. The pain of his son's death had razored through him, and he'd remembered that moment of realisation all too well.
He could remember being with her, but not with Daniel. Surely, of the two, Daniel, being more recent, should be the more memorable?
Could it be true? The photograph he'd seen had shown there was something between them, but was Daniel using his amnesia to force something to happen? Something that didn't actually exist?
That couldn't be the case, Jack was almost sure of it, his evidence the way that Daniel had scrupulously kept his distance. But that didn't stop the doubt from putting down roots, making him wonder just why Daniel had volunteered to spend time with him.
"What're you doing up, Jack?" Daniel asked, making Jack jump slightly as his voice invaded the quiet room.
"Too much going on in my head," Jack said, still looking out of the window. He didn't want to turn round, didn't want to see Daniel looking at him with those eyes that seemed able to see through every barrier he put up. Not until he was sure.
"I guess," Jack replied. "Hard to tell, it's all one big mess."
"Well," Daniel said, coming nearer to where Jack sat. "There's a good few years to sort out, it's bound to be confusing at first."
An awkward silence fell between them, and Jack could almost feel Daniel standing there, the weight of his gaze. He wanted to ask a thousand things, demand answers from Daniel rather than having to remember them himself, but was he really prepared to live with the consequences?
"I was married," he began, tentatively.
"Who was she?"
"I only ever met her once, Jack," Daniel said. "Her name's Sara."
"Sara." Jack repeated the word silently to himself a couple of times, trying out the sound and feel of it. "I dreamed of someone, a woman, but I don't know if it was her."
Silence again. Jack turned, only just in time to see Daniel turning away, headed towards the kitchen.
What should he have said? Should he have lied, Jack wondered, said that he remembered Daniel when he didn't? It would have been kinder, Jack supposed, but Daniel would surely have known it for the lie it was.
Of course Jack would remember Sara.
Even as Daniel turned away, not wanting Jack to turn round and see the look of disappointment that he knew would be there on his face, he was resigned to the fact. They'd been together longer than he and Jack had even known one another, and Daniel had lived with the fact that there was still something between them. Daniel had seen enough when they were together at the hospital, even before he'd known how he felt about Jack himself.
Was this the beginning of the end, as he'd feared?
As Daniel stared into the refrigerator, wondering if he had any appetite, he was forced to consider that possibility. That there was a chance that Jack cared more for Sara, even now, than he'd ever done for him, that Jack might choose to pursue that relationship once more.
He hardly knew how he felt. It would be wrong to push Jack when he didn't remember anything, but had that decision not to do so given Jack a chance to walk away from what they'd had together?
Daniel let his head rest on his outstretched arm, feeling the coolness of the refrigerator door against his skin.
He shouldn't have done this. Not here. Not when Jack was in the other room. If he'd wanted to mope, Daniel decided, he should have hidden himself away in the spare bedroom, not let his feelings overwhelm him somewhere public like this.
Daniel straightened up slowly, hoping that his face was calm, but not really knowing whether it was, even as he met Jack's eyes.
Any doubts Jack had harboured about Daniel's honesty were destroyed the moment he saw the expression on Daniel's face, and the effort with which he tried to hide it. His casual enquiries about Sara had obviously struck deeper than he'd thought, making Daniel wonder whether there had ever been any truth between them.
And now he was beginning to remember everything.
Every time Jack tried to think about Sara, pushing his mind to remember what they'd experienced together, his wayward memories had begun to supply him with images of Daniel. The harder he'd tried to think of Sara, the more explicit those images of Daniel had become, more intimate than his imagination alone could have created.
He had no doubts now that Daniel had spoken the truth.
But Daniel was uncertain, that much was clear although he tried and almost succeeded in hiding the fact. And he'd just contributed to that uncertainty.
"Guess I made a mistake," Jack said, groping for the right words. How could he undo the damage he'd done? He saw Daniel's reaction to his words and even before he'd moved, Jack had stepped into his path. "No. Don't."
"I remember everything," Jack said. "Everything that's important, anyway."
"Like Sara?" Daniel snapped, his arms wrapping round himself as if he'd fall apart.
"And you." Jack reached out uncertainly, his hand not quite touching Daniel's arm. "I remember you."
"Guess I made a mistake," Jack said, and Daniel felt something turn cold inside him. Those simple words. He had to get out of here, out of the house, away from Jack.
He was moving towards the door before he was even aware of it, only to find Jack blocking his way.
He didn't want to touch Jack, not if he could avoid it. And Jack didn't seem to be prepared to move anytime soon. Daniel stopped, choosing words as his weapon, wanting to make Jack move, rather then pushing past him.
"Don't?" he heard himself ask, hearing the cold he felt echoed in the frozenness of his tone.
"I remember everything." He didn't want to hear this. How could he bear hearing Jack extol the virtues of Sara and forget what they had experienced? "Everything that's important, anyway."
"Like Sara?" Daniel snapped, lashing out with his words. He saw Jack recoil slightly at his tone, eyes widening at the venom he had to hear.
"And you. I remember you."
Jack had touched him then, uncertain. And Daniel felt himself shatter, the coldness inside splintering into a million pieces at those words, that touch.
They managed to make it into the living room, barely.
Daniel had responded to his words, inarticulate as they were, and even more so to his touch. Even when Jack hadn't known the right things to say, how to bridge the chasm he'd inadvertently created between them, they had somehow been able to communicate regardless.
Now they were on the couch, Jack's hand trapped between the two of them, his fingers tracing a line of heat along Daniel's body.
"Who am I?" Daniel rasped, arching under Jack's hand.
It took a moment for the words to sink in, for Jack to realise just what Daniel meant. He wasn't pushing Jack away, his body was responding to Jack's touch the same way he always did, but this time instead of the usual wordless moans there was actual speech. Jack leaned forward, his cheek rubbing against Daniel's, his breath whispering into Daniel's ear as he spoke.
"I know who you are," Jack said. "I know you, Daniel."
He felt Daniel relax a little, some of the stiffness leaving his body even as his hand came up to try and pull Jack down. He let himself be guided, feeling Daniel's fingers thread through his hair, turning him, manoeuvring him to where their mouths could meet.
"I missed you," Daniel said.
"I missed me too," Jack replied, smiling as he saw Daniel's eyes open, the emotions lurking at the back of them.
"Yeah," Jack said, looking down at Daniel. Damn, he looked like he'd been thoroughly debauched already, his hair sticking up in a dozen directions, his mouth inviting as ever. "But I'm your idiot," he continued, "and don't you forget it."
The words left his mouth before Jack could reconsider them, and he saw Daniel close his eyes in response, pulling in on himself once more. Days worth of uncertainty and pain would be there, Jack knew, and it seemed that Daniel didn't him want to see.
"Never," Daniel said, his eyes still tight shut.
Much as he might want to pretend, he just couldn't manage it. How could he, when the smallest thing Jack said reminded him of the pain he'd been experiencing only minutes before?
Jack had stopped moving, his hand still resting between them, the comforting warmth of his body the only reminder that they were still where they had been, together. Tentatively, Daniel opened his eyes.
"I'm a dumbass."
Daniel found himself smiling at Jack's words, despite everything.
"Tell me something I don't know, Jack," he replied, pulling him down so that they could kiss. It was brief, almost chaste. "And I want you to tell me something else, if you can?"
He felt Jack's body shift slightly, as if he was withdrawing. Daniel allowed his fingers to slip through Jack's hair and come to rest loosely on the back of his neck. Under his fingers, Daniel could feel the tension grow.
"What?" Jack said, as if he was forcing out the word.
"Do you remember being on the planet?" Jack nodded. "Why did you drink what the shaman gave you?"
"I don't remember drinking anything."
Daniel sighed, closing his eyes as he searched for patience. He shouldn't feel angry with Jack for not remembering everything, but he needed to know. He had to know why.
"The shaman said," Daniel continued, looking up at Jack once more, "that you were in pain. And that you agreed to drink what he gave you, to take that pain away."
Jack looked puzzled now, but also as if he had turned in on himself, his mind working hard to try and remember, to try and do what Daniel asked of him.
"I remember being on the planet," Jack said, the words slow and uncertain. "You left the cavern, and I watched you leave, wishing I could just get up and follow you."
"And then what?"
"The shaman," Jack continued, "I remember him speaking. He offered me a bowl of something. He spoke to me when all he'd done was scowl at you and I remember wishing you were there to see it."
Daniel smiled, reassured by the way all Jack's memories seemed to be circling round him now, one way or another. Jack frowned then, as if searching for the memories was painful, and Daniel's hand tightened its grip, pulling him down once more until they were nestled together. Jack's breath was warm against Daniel's neck, the words muffled by their closeness but still clear enough for Daniel to understand.
"He said I carried a burden." Daniel kept quiet as Jack spoke, though he longed to demand answers. "And that this would free me from it. He gave me this stuff, it smelled awful."
"Why, Jack?" Daniel asked, finally, closing his eyes once more.
There was silence for a moment, Daniel's only sensation the weight of Jack's body and the warmth of his breath.
"I knew what he was offering. And I had to take it. It was all too much."
"Does any of this feel familiar?" Daniel asked, the words blurred by the closeness of skin.
Jack smiled, hearing the worry still underlying the question.
"Kinda." As he'd expected, Daniel lifted his head and just looked at him for a moment, unsure whether he was trying for annoyance or worry. "Keep doing that with your hand and I'm sure it'll all come flooding back."
Daniel snorted, relaxing again.
"It was just all too much," Jack continued, knowing that Daniel still needed to know. Maybe he needed to explain it to himself as well? "Charlie, Sara, all the botched missions, Iraq... The years of responsibility, taking you into dangerous situations, all the people I've lost along the way."
"It's my choice."
"I know. But that doesn't stop me feeling responsible." Jack was silent for a moment, thinking of all the things he'd willingly forgotten, just to get away from everything else.
"You saw how I was after Charlie died. Well, some of it anyway. You didn't see the hours I spent in his room, wondering if I was brave enough just to end it all."
Daniel said nothing, his eyes full of sympathy. Jack was glad, he wasn't sure if he could have tolerated words.
"And every so often that feeling comes back."
There. He'd admitted it now, the one thing a dozen different shrinks had tried to make him say, digging around in his brain for any evidence of 'suicidal tendencies' once they'd read his medical file and seen what he'd been through.
"So, you stood at the edge of the abyss, looking down..." Daniel words were muttered, muted against his skin.
Jack smiled. Trust Daniel to make things more poetic than they were.
"I got the worst of the bargain, Daniel," he said. "I gained, because I found oblivion, I didn't have to think about what I'd done. But I lost too. Big time. I lost you, and Charlie, and all the good things we've done with the SGC. I blew it."
He could feel Daniel's smile against his skin.
"And there I was thinking it was me. Us."
"You thought I was ashamed of what we have?" Jack hear the incredulous tone, even before Daniel pushed himself away to enable him to look at Jack.
"I didn't have much evidence to go on, Jack," he said, frowning. "I thought you wanted out, wanted to forget what we'd done..."
Jack shook his head, pulling Daniel close once more, feeling the warmth of him, muscle and sinew under the skin where his hands rested.
"I blew it," he said. "That's all. Chose what looked like the easy way to deal with everything that's in my head, instead of thinking what would happen. I just got hit at the wrong time - another day I would have turned him down without thinking twice."
"It was just a temporary thing," Daniel said. "You drank the waters of Lethe and returned to tell the tale. So now we move on..."
"Lethe?" He couldn't help himself, even if he got a patented Daniel- lecture as a result.
"Greek mythology," Daniel said. "Lethe was one of the rivers in Hell. Anyone who drank its water forgot their past, so they had nothing to regret."
"You always say those fairytales have foundation."
Daniel snorted again, his breath a warm caress across Jack's skin.
"See?" he said. "There's something else you remember."
Disclaimer : Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is written for entertainment purposes only - no money whatsoever has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story-line are the property of the author - not to be archived elsewhere without permission.